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day 322 – confectionery, william peskett

June 11, 2012

confectionery, william peskett

ambit 206

london: ambit 2011




‘From the private diary and correspondence of Arlo Aresti, chief financial officer.’



‘I spend time on the plane preparing for tomorrow’s witch-hunt.’



A story that takes place during 3 days in Phnom Penh as clearly marked by the diary entries, email and text message details.

Arlo Aresti is CFO of a multi-national confectioners, he’s in Phnom Penh for an end of year review, and because large amounts of money are being siphoned off in a collusion between a few company employees and umpteen corruptible tax  officers.

He is a man who know what he wants, and has vast experience in getting it.


‘she tells me she was made in Bangkok.’


For me there is an excitement to read about his movements around Phnom Penh but very little of the city, its people or its atmosphere is evoked here. With the exception of a comment on the traffic, the numerous hookers sipping hopefully in hotel bars, and the wonderful Foreign Correspondents’ Club – which has a delightful view out over the water. No mention of the hawkers, food, bustle or general grime of the place which western visitors almost always notice vividly -even if it’s not their first time. This may be partly explained by his being a CFO travelling on business an staying at the Raffles and travelling in taxis not on foot – but any taxi driver in Phnom Penh (or Bangkok) might be likely to offer the unexpected sights after dark.

‘ I snarl like a werewolf at my working-day image and then laugh.’

The story is a good one, neatly shimmying between professional and personal, between intra-company business and larger sprawling affairs, including brilliantly convincing negotiations with government officials. [Those who have experience of such dealings in South-East Asia will surely enjoy, and crack a wry smile at, this discreet coming together.]

‘David will go ballistic when he hears we’ve been finessed.’

Many of the stereotypical expectations of South East Asia cities are (un)covered – corruption; carazy traffic; prostitution; transsexuals and transvestites; honour, dishonour and the art of saving face – and there’s no shame in that. For these are  reflected accurately with the eye of an experienced observer.


‘I take time for an inspection in the mirror… I’m confident that I look the successful, even imposing, Western businessman, not tranny-whoring pervert.’




While the pace and plot are punchy and pique the curiosity, the core of this story is its voice. It’s the psychological (and physical) motivations and machinations of Arlo Aresto, CFO that we become embroiled in. How much a man might record in his diary is arguable – particularly when so much of the information is, well, let’s say delicate, and if such things were to get into the wrong hands:


‘She has large hands with slender fingers, which I take to be a good sign. Her throat is slim and smooth, with only the slightest movement when she swallows.”


The italicised tagline at the top informing us that this is from his diary may be little more than a token gesture, how believable it is is open to debate. There is a lot of action and detail regarding somethings and strange holes in others – that may or may not be true to life. And who writes their diary in present tense?

But as he notes after the elevators doors have closed, and the rest of world are no longer watching:

‘The explanation isn’t supposed to sound true, but it gives him the cue to speak.’


And for the perversely thrilling story he recounts for us, we might gladly suspend our disbelief.









From → asian, irish

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